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   Chapter 35 No.35

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 10844

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

OUTSIDE of a walled town in North Italy there stands, on a high hill, an old villa, which, owing to its position, is visible for miles in every direction. It was built in the fourteenth century. Its once high tower was lowered in A. D. 1423. Its blank yellow walls are long, pierced irregularly by large windows, which are covered with iron cages; massive doors open upon a square court-yard within; an avenue of cypresses leads up the bare hill to the entrance.

Sixteen days after the conversation between Paul Tennant and Edward Knox, three persons were standing in the court-yard of this villa behind the closed outer doors. The court-yard was large, open to the sky; a stone shield, bearing three carved wolves, was tilted forward on one of the walls; opposite, over a door, there was a headless figure of a man in armor; a small zinc cross over a smaller door marked the entrance to the family chapel. In one corner stood a circular stone well, with a yellow marble parapet supported by grinning masks; in another hung a wire cord that led to a bell above, which was covered by a little turret roof, also bearing a cross. There were no vines or flowers, not a green leaf; the yard was bare, paved with large stones, which, though ancient, were clean; the blades of grass marking the interstices, usual in Italy, were absent here.

Of the three persons who stood together near the well, one was a stout woman with a square face, an air of decision and business-like cheerfulness, and pretty hands which she kept crossed on her black dress. The second was a small, thin man of fifty. The third was Paul Tennant.

"I have heard your reasons, I am not satisfied with them," Paul was saying; "I must insist upon seeing her."

"But consider, pray-when I tell you that she does not wish to see you," said the woman, rubbing her hands together, and then looking at them inspectingly.

"How can I be sure of that?"

"You have my word for it."

"It is as Mrs. Wingate says," interposed the small, thin man, earnestly. His voice was clear and sweet.

"Miss Bruce may have said it. But when we have once met-"

"Well, I think I'll go in now," interrupted Mrs. Wingate, giving her hands a last rub, looking at them, and then crossing them on her black dress again. "I've given you twenty minutes, but I've a thousand things to do; all the clothes to cut out-fancy! I leave you with Mr. Smith. Good-day."

"Instead of leaving me, you had better take me to Miss Bruce," said Paul.

She shook her finger at him. "Do you think I'd play her such a trick as that?" She crossed the court, opened a door, and disappeared.

Paul turned impatiently to Mr. Smith. "There is something that Miss Bruce must know. Call her down immediately."

Mr. Smith was silent. Then he said: "I might evade, but I prefer not to; the lady you speak of has asked our protection, and especially from you; she is soon to be taken into the Holy Church."

"So you're a priest, are you?" said Paul, in a fury.

"And that woman Wingate is your accomplice? Now I know where to have you!"

Mr. Smith did not quail, though Paul's fist was close under his nose. "I am not a priest; Mrs. Wingate is an English lady of fortune, who devotes her life to charitable works. Miss Bruce came to us of her own accord, only three days ago. She was ill and unhappy. Now she is-tranquil."

"Is she-is she alive?" said Paul, his voice suddenly beginning to tremble. It had come to him that Eve was dead.

"She is. I may as well tell you that she did not wish to be; but-but it has been represented to her that our lives are not our own, to cut short as we please; and so she has repented."

"I don't believe she has repented!" said Paul, with inconsequent anger. He hated the word, and the quiet little man.

"She told me that she had killed some one," Mr. Smith went on, in a whisper, his voice, even in a whisper, however, preserving its sweetness.

"See here!" said Paul, taking him by the arm eagerly; "that is what I have come for; all these months she has thought so, but it is a mistake; he died from another cause."

"Thank God!" said Mr. Smith.

"Thank God and bring her out, man! She is the one to know."

"I'll do what I can. But it may not be thought best by those in authority; I must warn you that I shall obey the orders of my superior, in any case."

"Yet you don't look like an ass!"

"Wait here, please," said Mr. Smith, without noticing this comment. He opened a door beside the chapel (not the one by which Mrs. Wingate had entered), and, going in, gently closed it behind him.

Paul waited. Five minutes passed. Ten. Fifteen. He tried all the doors; they were locked. He went over to the corner where the bell-rope hung and pulled it twice; "cling-clang! cling-clang!" sounded the bell in its turret.

In answer a window opened above, and a large, placid Italian peasant appeared, looking at him amiably.

"Mr. Smith?" said Paul.


"Mrs. Wingate, then?"


"There's only one road-the one by which I came up, and I haven't heard any carriage drive away; if 'Fuori' means out, you are not telling the truth; they are not out, they are here."

The Italian smiled, still amiably.

"Is there any one here who speaks English?" said Paul, in despair.

"Ingleese? Si." She went off with the same serene expression. Before long she appeared again at a door below, which she left o

pen; Paul could see a bare stone-floored hall, with a staircase at the end.

Presently down the staircase came a quick-stepping little old woman, with a black lace veil on her head; she came briskly to the door. "I hear you wish to speak to me?"

"You're an American," said Paul. "I'm glad of that."

"Well, you're another, and I'm not glad of it! Americans are limited. Besides, they are Puritans. My being an American doesn't make any difference to you, that I know of."

"Yes, it does. You come from a country where no one is shut up."

"How about the prisons?"

"For criminals, yes. Not for girls."

"Girls are silly. Have nothing to do with them until they are older; that's my advice," said the old lady, alertly.

"Do you know Miss Bruce?"

"A little."

"Take me to her."

"I can't, she is in retreat."

"You wouldn't approve of force being used for any one; I am sure you would not," said Paul, trying to speak gently.

"Force? Force is never used here, you must be out of your mind. If you do not see Miss Bruce, you may depend that it is because she does not wish to see you."

"She would-if she could hear me say one word!"

"No doubt you'd cajole her! I'm glad she is where you can't get at her, poor dear!"

"She was to have been my wife two weeks ago," said Paul, making a last effort to soften her.

"Well, go home now; she'll never be your wife this side the grave," said the old lady, laughing.

"I'll make all Italy ring with it, madam. This old house shall come down about your ears."

"Mercy me! We're not Italians, we're English. And we've got a government protection; it's a charitable institution."

"For inveigling people, and getting their money! Miss Bruce, you know, has money."

"I didn't know a thing about it-not a thing! Money, has she? Well, Ernestine Wingate does like money; she wants to build a new wing. Look here, young man, Father Ambrose is coming here to-day; you want to see him. He'll do what's right, he is a very good man; and he commands all the others; they have to do as he says, whether they like it or not,-I guess you'd better not hurry away." And, with a nod in which there was almost a wink, the American convert went back down the hall and up the stairway, disappearing through a door which closed with a sharp bang behind her.

Paul crossed the court-yard, and, opening one of the great portals, he passed through, shutting it behind him. Outside, attached to the wall of the villa, there ran a long, low stone bench, crumbling and overgrown with ivy; he sat down here, and remained motionless.

An hour later a carriage drove up, and a priest descended; he was a man of fifty-eight or there-abouts, tall, with a fine bearing and an agreeable face. Paul went up to him, touching his hat as he did so. "Are you going in?"

"That is what I have come for," answered the priest, smiling.

The doors, meanwhile, had been thrown open; the priest passed in, followed by Paul.

When they reached the court-yard the priest stopped. "Will you kindly tell me your business?"

"It concerns Miss Bruce, an American who has only been here a few days. She came, supposing that the death of my brother was due to an act of hers; I have just learned that she is completely mistaken, he died from another cause."

"God be praised! She has been very unhappy-very," said the priest, with sympathy. "This will relieve her."

"I should like to see her.-The whole community can be present, if you please."

"That will hardly be necessary," said Father Ambrose, smiling again. He went towards the door by the side of the chapel. "I will tell her myself, I will go at once." He opened the door.

"I prefer to see her. You have no real authority over her, she has not yet taken the vows."

"There has been no talk of vows," said Father Ambrose, waving his hand with an amused air. "Every one is free here, I don't know what you are thinking of! If you will give me your address, Miss Bruce will write to you."

"Do you refuse to let me see her?"

"For the present-yes. You must remember that we don't know who you are."

"She will tell you."

"Yes; she is very intelligent," answered the priest, entering the doorway and preparing to mount the stairs.

But Paul knocked him down.

Then he ran forward up the stairs; he opened doors at random, he ran through room after room; women met him, and screamed. At last, where the hall turned sharply, Mr. Smith confronted him. Mr. Smith was perfectly composed.

"Let me pass," said Paul.

"In a moment. All shall be as you like, if you will wait-"

"Wait yourself!" cried Paul, felling him to the floor. Then he ran on.

At the end of the hall Mrs. Wingate stopped him. Her manner was unaltered; it was business-like and cheerful; her plump hands were clasped over her dress.

"Now," she said, "no more violence! You'll hardly knock down a woman, I suppose?"

"Forty, if necessary."

He thrust her against the wall, and began trying the doors. There were three of them. Two were locked. As his hand touched the third, Mrs. Wingate came to his side, and opened it promptly and quietly.

"No one has ever wished to prevent your entrance," she said. "Your violence has been unnecessary-the violence of a boor!"

Paul laughed in her face.

There was no one in the room. But there was a second door. He opened it. And took Eve in his arms.


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